Residential green space and seasonal distress in a cohort of tree pollen allergy patients

Raf Aerts, Michiel Stas, Naomi Vanlessen, Marijke Hendrickx, Nicolas Bruffaerts, Lucie Hoebeke, Nicolas Dendoncker, Sebastien Dujardin, Nelly D. Saenen, An Van Nieuwenhuyse, Jean Marie Aerts, Jos Van Orshoven, Tim S. Nawrot, Ben Somers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Residential green space may improve human health, for example by promoting physical activity and by reducing stress. Conversely, residential green space may increase stress by emitting aeroallergens and exacerbating allergic disease. Here we examine impacts of exposure to residential green space on distress in the susceptible subpopulation of adults sensitized to tree pollen allergens. Methods: In a panel study of 88 tree pollen allergy patients we analyzed self-reported mental health (GHQ-12), perceived presence of allergenic trees (hazel, alder, birch) near the residence and residential green space area within 1 km distance [high (≥3 m) and low (<3 m) green]. Results were adjusted for patients’ background data (gender, age, BMI, smoking status, physical activity, commuting distance, education level, allergy medication use and chronic respiratory problems) and compared with distress in the general population (N = 2467). Results: Short-term distress [mean GHQ-12 score 2.1 (95% confidence interval 1.5–2.7)] was higher in the study population than in the general population [1.5 (1.4–1.7)]. Residential green space had protective effects against short-term distress [high green, per combined surface area of 10 ha: adjusted odds ratio OR = 0.94 (95% confidence interval 0.90–0.99); low green, per 10 ha: OR = 0.85 (0.78–0.93)]. However, distress was higher in patients who reported perceived presence of allergenic trees near their residence [present vs. absent: OR = 2.04 (1.36–3.07)]. Conclusions: Perceived presence of allergenic tree species in the neighbourhood of the residence of tree pollen allergy patients modulates the protective effect of residential green space against distress during the airborne tree pollen season.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-79
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • Emotional distress
  • GHQ-12
  • Mental health
  • Residential green space
  • Respiratory hypersensitivity
  • Tree pollen allergy


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